Spirit of renewal in commercial agriculture

Spring has arrived in more ways than one! After the recent Agri North West congress I feel as if commercial agriculture is moving into a spring time of its own, despite all the negatives farmers have to face on a daily basis. And that’s all because of the spirit of renewal I noticed among delegates, especially the younger ones.

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These young men and women are infectiously positive about the future of agriculture and their role therein. I came home with heart full of admiration for their enthusiasm and courage. 

A large part of the second congress day was dedicated to the public’s perceptions about the commercial farming industry in SA. I was astonished by the progressive ideas from the floor. These young people want to portray themselves as professional food producers who work in partnership with the rest of SA. They don’t want to isolate themselves as an embittered minority group. This bodes very well for commercial farming, let me tell you.

One old-timer was apparently quite upset by the junior team’s perceived ‘radicalism’ and tried to steer the discourse back to the threadbare us-and-them debate. The Young Turks stuck to their guns.

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But please don’t get the idea that the rest of the older guys didn’t support the junior farmers. One of them got up, brandishing the Farmer’s Weekly issue containing the By Invitation we did with Thabo Leshilo on black people’s perceptions of commercial white farmers.

“I’m ashamed by what this man said about black people’s negative perceptions about us. We must do something this,” he said. The fact that commercial farmers realise how important it is to market themselves to the consumer made my heart sing.

And so we meet again, Mr. Organised Agriculture. What are you going to do now? Are you still going still going to look for spurious reasons why you can’t do something about the situation described by Leshilo (and others)?

Or are you going to take heed of the ‘junior team’, as I like to call them? If you don’t, you might find them leaving you behind in the process of repositioning commercial agriculture as a respected and valued part of the SA economy.

Annelie Coleman represents Farmer’s Weekly in the Free State, North West and Northern Cape. Agriculture is in her blood. She grew up on a maize farm in the Wesselsbron district where her brother is still continuing with the family business. Annelie is passionate about the area she works in and calls it ‘God’s own country’. She’s particularly interested in beef cattle farming, especially with the indigenous African breeds. She’s an avid reader and owns a comprehensive collection of Africana covering hunting in colonial Africa, missionary history of same period, as well as Rhodesian literature.